City Council to discuss budget, vote on referendum question

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Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th). Wilson spoke at an October City Council meeting about formalizing the practice of nonpartisan elections with a referendum question.

Emma Edmund, Assistant City Editor

City Council plans to continue its discussion on the 2020-2021 budget, vote on a potential referendum question and introduce a cannabis-related ordinance at Monday’s meeting.

The proposed budget, which was published online on Oct. 4, projects a total budget of over $317 million for 2020 and almost $300 million for 2021. At Monday’s City Council meeting, city staff plans to present updates on several items, including vacant property registration and on-street parking.

At the Oct. 28 City Council meeting, council members proposed pursuing taxation or raising fees on vacant properties. City staff released a memo detailing a proposed increase on vacant property registration from $400 to $2500, effective on Jan. 1. Staff also recommends increasing penalties for people found in violation of the vacant building ordinance, up to $1000 for the third or later violation.

City staff also prepared memos regarding the proposed increase for on-street parking from $1.50 to $2.00 per hour, which is projected to bring in $1.5 to $1.9 million in new revenue for the city’s parking fund. The memo also discussed Sunday parking meters.

“Eliminating Sunday parking charges would cost the City between $260,000 to $300,000 in lost revenue,” interim city manager Erika Storlie said in a city memo.

The recent memorandum also discusses increasing the city’s amusement tax from four percent to five percent, which affects for-profit amusements. City Council had requested staff look into whether the tax could be expanded to include health club memberships and classes, but due to current case law, staff does not recommend this expansion.

Finally, the memorandum also mentions that increasing the hotel room rental tax from 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent would create up to $300,000 in new revenue.

At tomorrow’s City Council meeting, council members also plan to vote on a resolution that would add a referendum question to the March 17, 2020 election ballot on whether Evanston should hold partisan or nonpartisan elections. Nonpartisan elections have been held in the past in Evanston, but a referendum question is necessary to formalize the practice.

“This is to keep to the same as we’ve been doing,” said Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) at an October City Council meeting. “I would like to move forward with this and cross the T’s and dot the I’s and have it correctly on the books.”

The council members also plan to introduce an ordinance that would amend portions of the City Code following the enactment of the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which legalizes recreational cannabis use in the state.

With the new ordinance, the City Code would allow state residents over the age of 21 to possess 30 grams of cannabis flower, five grams of cannabis concentrate and no more than 500 milligrams of THC within a cannabis-infused product. Non-residents over the age of 21 would be allowed half of the amount of each cannabis product.

The proposed ordinance also removes references to the Cannabis Control Act in the section about drug paraphernalia, and addresses the limits of transportation and consumption of cannabis within city borders.

The City Council meeting will be held Monday at 6:45 p.m. at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @emmaeedmund

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